TrustNavigator Blog

Students, parents, and employers have evolved in their expectations for the traditional educational experience. The shift is a result of technology, rising educational costs, and the change in parental roles. These unrelated issues have created a perfect storm and are redefining the role colleges will have over the next few decades. Today, college in large part is an on-campus experience. Over the next ten years that will change. Traditional institutions will be challenged to provide differentiated value. The stigmas of education will be particularly challenging to parents. Next blog we will talk about employers.

Two earner household parenting is still transitioning. Baby boomers were brought up by war babies. Rigid rule-oriented households (in general terms) were followed by a generation looking for greater family and personal success and more materialistic objectives. It coincided with a societal bias that education was critical with the goal of a college diploma as the gateway to success and well-being. Baby boomer parents transformed to more helicoptering roles in children’s lives as they balanced dual earner/parent roles and guilt (see past blogs). A participation trophy diploma at all costs has resulted in student debt and less millennial career preparation. GenZ, a younger generation having experienced economic cycles more recently is adapting differently to college costs than their older brethren.

Technology and social media are new challenges. Parents today did not have cell phones growing up. The resulting anxiety, drug usage, overdosing, teen suicide and complex social change is accelerating and showing lasting effects not comparable to past generational transitions. Many studies tie this to the connection of mobile devices and social media and the dopamine effect (see Simon Sinek). Digestion of these changes is difficult. Adults with a lack of familiarity and experience themselves don’t know how to cope with mobile devices not to mention offering parental direction. A resulting unusual apathy is resonating in society. Many blame this on a “millennial” generation, but vacated parenting is synonymous with this behavior. Some recent antidotes are revealing. Recently at an urban school near Akron, Ohio a parent teacher conference night for 800 students attracted 8(no misprint) parents. This is not unusual in talking to schools nationwide, rural and urban, affluent and poor. This is not every school, but these antidotes reflect a growing pattern in changing parental behavior versus a prior generation where the stigma of missing a teacher conference was a definition of irresponsible parenting. Recently at another school in a class of emotionally challenged students, one student started a violent rampage. When the teacher later inquired how the parent responded to calm the child at home they answered, ”we give him what he wants”. This is not every parent. It cannot even be called normal. It is reflective of a change of discipline and apathy.

Entitlement is currently used so often to describe the young generation. But parent apathy is shared thru behavior observed by a younger generation. Volunteerism is on the decline. A younger generation has pronounced “caring” for many in need and challenged. But they are too busy. The number of volunteers actively involved in charities is strikingly lower today than in the past on college campuses and in high schools. While activism is up, event sponsors countrywide see volunteer shortages. Actions speak volumes more than words. Not all children.

Employers are seeing the resulting behavior in candidates for employment. Many studies sight the social and basic communication skills missing in a younger generation. This is not every young child today, but the behavior and studies are consistent. Few want to talk about it. “It’s not my kids”. In the meantime, the corporate culture change of two decades of downsizing and outsourcing has left impressions on a generation that corporate loyalty is not mutual to dedicated workers (their parents). Fewer teen jobs leave young people with less experience, a result of government minimum wage and well-intended child labor laws that have had unintended consequences. It’s not anyone’s fault, but is it any wonder why first job experiences today last only 2 ½ years? Many students, so often without prior experience, take a first job offered. Challenged with mounting debt (primarily college related) the average 25-year-old today has a negative net worth. They take the job because they are anxious of not getting another offer. An insecurity of sorts, but in so many cases that we review with individuals, they don’t even know the job description. Just relieved to have one. It is a buyer’s market for jobs. We need to tell them.

We ask why behavior is what it is? In large part it is learned. The changed millennial issues are not the result of one factor, one set of parents or one employer. Some unsolicited ideas for parents:

  1. Start a more conscious effort of self-responsibility and self-sufficiency. Multi generations can be so helpful in teaching empathy. Children of all ages ask your parents, “What keeps you up at night?” The answers has not changed in generations. Talk about it.
  2. The tasks around the house still have to be done. The vacuuming can be done, animals cared for, dishes washed (with parents).
  3. Teach accountability. Its not the refs who lost the game, not the teachers who got the bad grade and not the supervisor who didn’t finish the job completely. Losing happens. The best winners are good losers. Teach children to cross the finish line…on their own. No helicoptering.
  4. If tenure or lack of inertia causes complacency, create constructive and novel solutions to promote change. Change has consequences, good and bad. Focus on the future because that is where you will spend the rest of your life.
  5. The average teen spends nine hours in front of a screen. Learn about Blue light. Educate yourself on dopamine. Cell phones should all be put away at 8pm. Parents don’t ignore your own advice. This is scientific in brain development… up (for articles email us
  6. Talk about careers. Teach children, not all strangers are dangerous. They are your network. Ask your college students what do their friends parents do? Have them talk to aunts and uncles about their careers (more empathy). Have children’s classes shadow your workforce for a day. Take your child to work. Get internships. Better yet, multiple internships. Offer internships. Learn how to make them easy to afford and valuable as an employer. (
  7. Quit denigrating the weather, the politicians, the country and the in-laws (or at least 2 of them). Apathy stems from not wanting to make the effort for solutions or to complete the task. Solving problems is not exclusive to adults. Teach it. Live it.
  8. Unintended consequences are part of life. Putting a 16-year-old to work teaches responsibility. If not legal in your locality then consider it might be a good cause to get involved in politics if not for other constructive reasons. Teach children of due process and not to accuse others based on assumptions or innuendo. Empathy.
  9. Discipline is a parental responsibility. It is a school necessity. It is the enforcement of right and wrong. You are not a peer of your children and their friends.
  10. Life needs to have measurable outcomes. It is a human feature to differentiate us from other species. We set goals, strategy to face the speed bumps of life, and grit to get back up to pursue.
  11. Teach financial literacy or find someone to help. Debt, budgets and saving are words with meaning.
  12. Convergence of happiness and well-being is not a millennial thing. They observed.